Mennipea - Bakhtin's Theory

Bakhtin's Theory

Menippean satire plays a special role in Mikhail Bakhtin's theory of the novel. In Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics, Bakhtin treats Menippean satire as one of the classical "serio-comic" genres, alongside Socratic dialogue and other forms that Bakhtin claims are united by a "carnival sense of the world", wherein "carnival is the past millennia's way of sensing the world as one great communal performance" and is "opposed to that one-sided and gloomy official seriousness which is dogmatic and hostile to evolution and change". Authors of "Menippea" in Bakhtin's sense include Voltaire, Diderot, and E.T.A. Hoffmann.

In a series of articles, Edward Milowicki and Robert Rawdon Wilson, building upon Bakhtin’s theory, have argued that Menippean is not a period-specific term, as many Classicists have claimed, but a term for discursive analysis that instructively applies to many kinds of writing from many historical periods including the modern. As a type of discourse, “Menippean” signifies a mixed, often discontinuous way of writing that draws upon distinct, multiple traditions. It is normally highly intellectual and typically embodies an idea, an ideology or a mind-set in the figure of a grotesque, even disgusting, comic character.

"The power of very physical images to satirize, or otherwise comment upon, ideas lies at the heart of Menippean satire."

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